About a week ago I reached into my fridge for a can of La Croix which was stuffed way in the back corner. I snaked my hand through jars, milk jugs and random food items and finally got my fingers on the can.
As I was pulling it out, my 4-year-old came running into the kitchen yelling some demand. I pulled my arm out quickly, my elbow hit a nearly full gallon of milk which then crashed to the floor.
The plastic casing was no match for the 4-foot fall. It burst open. You know the rest.
Clean-up was a drag. Of course my 4-year-old thought it hilarious.
I resolved to clean and better organize my fridge.
As always, I researched the topic for ideas. There are no shortage of ideas online about fridge organization. This article sets out what I chose to implement. It’s split up into overarching refrigerator tips followed by 7 simple steps on how to organize your fridge quickly and more importantly, efficiently.
Related: Choosing the Right Fridge | Types of Electronics | Types of Freezers
A. My 8 Favorite Fridge Organization Tips
1. Plan out your fridge zones
The above is the fridge zones I roughly followed. You can of course tweak to suit your needs.
For example, we have young kids so the kids’ zone is important. I know some parents prefer their kids not go in the fridge themselves, we encourage our kids to get their own drinks and snacks. By creating a zone for them with yogurt drinks, cheese sticks etc. they can grab their own snacks easily (and hopefully minimize any spills).
2. Make cleaning easy with washable fridge mats
Fridge mats are one way to make cleaning your fridge in the future easier. Just pull them out and wash them. But that’s not all they’re used for. Apparently, the help keep food fresher longer.
Honestly, I’m kinda on the fence about these things. By the time you pull all the food out you can scrub the fridge down pretty fast.
If you like the colors, get them. Otherwise, IMO, a big maybe. I mention them here because some people might like them.
3. Buy and use storage containers
If you store plenty of produce and/or prepared meals, fridge containers can help with organizing your fridge.
Our fridge drawers are big enough for our produce needs, but as you can see above, they can be very useful in efficient fridge storage.
4. Buy and use fridge bins
I prefer fridge bins that offer a variety of refrigerator organizational options as shown above. I also prefer bins with not lids for easy access like the grape bin above.
Another clever bin is the long narrow one for jars and bottles. For some reason, the refrigerator door shelves are never enough to store all of our jars and bottles.
5. Stack wine and beverages
In addition to the stackable can bin above under #5, you can get stackable wine bottle holders as well. These are awesome because it gives you more options within your fridge for placing bottles. When stood upright, you’re limited to shelves with high clearance. With the stackable bin, you can put them on any shelf.
6. Get uber-efficient with Ziploc bags
In some ways, large Ziploc bags are better for fridge storage than containers because they only take up as much space as the food being stored in them. They can lie flat as well as demonstrated in the image above. Best of all, they cost less (assuming you wash and reuse them).
7. Avoid overstuffing the refrigerator drawers
I know all about overstuffed refrigerator drawers. The problem with this is you jam them shut only to risk ruining the plastic drawer or have a heck of a time getting it open again.
The best thing to do is avoid overstuffing them. Buy some bins and/or containers for extra produce storage.
8. Optional: buy a separate beverage fridge
We bought a beverage fridge. When we had kids, we had more milk, then yogurt drinks and juice plus our own beverages. More and more of our fridge was taken over by beverages. When we had guests, we literally had no room for extra kids’ drinks and adult beverages.
Then we threw an epic house party where we bought all kinds of drinks for guests with open bar. Enough was enough – we bought a beverage fridge. We love it and don’t regret a penny of it. If we had more room in our garage, we’d buy another full-sized fridge as well.
B. 8 steps to a very organized refrigerator
If starting from scratch like I did recently, here’s the 8-step process I followed.
1. Take all the food out
Avoid half-measures. You know what I mean by half-measures. It’s when you try to clean your fridge by moving stuff around and wiping it down. This will frustrate you and result in a mediocre job.
Take everything out, roll up your sleeves and give it a good cleaning. By doing this, it gives you a chance to properly plan out the zones and adjust shelves.
2. Toss spoiled food out
This is your chance to get rid of old food – the nasty stuff crammed in the back corner you forgot about 3 months ago. Or the rotten produce at the bottom of the drawer. Chuck it all.
2. Scrub it down
Use any run-of-the-mill dish-cleaning soap and water and of course a rag. Don’t use anything abrasive to avoid scratching any surfaces. Also avoid too much soap because you’ll spend more time than necessary wiping up soap streaks. An all-purpose cleaner will do the job as well.
3. Plan the zones
Already mentioned above, but if part of your fridge cleaning is reorganizing it, plan out your zones.
4. Adjust shelves accordingly
Once you’ve planned out the zones and know what’s going where, adjust your shelves accordingly. Strive for efficient clearance. By this I mean ensure there isn’t too much wasted space above your tallest items on any shelf.
5. Insert fridge mats
If you like the idea of fridge mats to color it up or maybe helping food stay fresher, insert your fridge mats at this point.
6. The frequency strategy
This is where you have to plan each zone. The concept is simple. You want to place the heavily used items toward the front in each zone. For example, if you have kids, chances are milk is at the front.
Endeavor to stick to the strategy. When you use an infrequently used item, don’t put it at the front when you return it which shoves frequently used items back. Instead, put items back where you planned them.
Of course, getting the rest of your household to do this is another matter altogether.
7. Easy kids access
If you have young kids, put the food and drinks they get themselves at a level they can easily reach.
Have you ever watched a 4 year old try to get something while tenuously standing on some chair? It’s nerve-wracking. You just know something will get knocked out from 5 feet up and crash to the floor. Murphy’s law dictates it’ll be something breakable filled with staining liquid.
8. Stack ’em
Plan each zone so you can stack items as much as possible. Stack beverages. Stack food containers. Stack with bins and Ziploc bags. You want as little of free space as possible (assuming you have tons of food in there like we do).
C. Don’t forget to clean your fridge’s exterior
If you have a stainless steel fridge (most people do these days), don’t let the inside look great with a smudgy exterior. Clean up the exterior weekly or every couple of weeks.
We recommend the all-natural Haus Naturals Stainless Steel Cleaner. It’s inexpensive, smells amazing and costs nothing.
Here’s a video explaining a very good natural stainless steel cleaner (Haus Naturals) that we also like.
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